Train strike: motorists warned to stay home

11th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

11 October 2004, AMSTERDAM — Dutch motorists association ANWB warned commuters to stay at home on Thursday or to leave for work very early to avoid heavy traffic during a nationwide public transport strike.

11 October 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch motorists association ANWB warned commuters to stay at home on Thursday or to leave for work very early to avoid heavy traffic during a nationwide public transport strike.

Trade union confederations FNV, CNV and MHP have urged public transport workers to stop work on 14 October in protest against the government's budget cuts, particularly in early retirement schemes and social security.

Consequently, trains and regional buses will not operate across the country. The nation's public transport system will shut down for about 24 hours starting from early Thursday morning.

The ANWB is predicting that the morning peak hour on the nation's roads will start early and will last longer as well. Thursday is already one of the busiest days on Dutch roads with on average 170km in traffic jams.

"We don't expect chaos, but we are warning that it will be extra busy," an ANWB spokesman told news agency ANP.

The spokesman also said the weather will be an important factor: if it rains, the traffic jams will be much longer. Meteorology bureau KNMI is forecasting unsettled weather with a 70 percent chance of rain.

The ANWB advised commuters to work from home or to take the day off. But in the case of those who have to go to work, it advised people to leave home early. It also advised commuters to car pool to reduce the pressure on the nation's roads.

To limit the nuisance factor as much as possible, the union confederations will be placing advertisements in national media to inform commuters about the strike.

Regional bus companies Connexxion, Arriva and BBA would probably sue for millions of euros if the planned strike went ahead, employers association VWOV said. The VWOV was also examining legal avenues to prevent the strike from going ahead, but the chance of success was considered small.

But travellers group Rover is also fiercely opposed to the strike, while the consumer watchdog Consumentenbond and Dutch rail operator NS said the strike was a "pity" and "annoying". The NS is considering its legal options.

NS chief Ad Veerman also sent an open letter to the cabinet and unions calling on them not to let the rail system become a "plaything", sparing 1 million daily commuters the pending "inconvenience" of Thursday's strike. 

He urged cabinet minister's to assemble at the train stations in The Hague, Leiden and Utrecht to meet with opponents and supporters to discuss the government's policy. On condition of assent from ministers to the invitation, he also urged unions to postpone the strike.

The planned protest comes despite the fact the Dutch Cabinet has indicated it will reduce its EUR 2.5 billion in budget cuts by about EUR 1 billion, responding to an alternative plan put forward by coalition government MPs.

Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm has insisted that major cuts are necessary to restore long-term economic health. He is not prepared to negotiate on the abolition of tax breaks on early retirement, which is the union movement's prime demand.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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